On the Bench: 1/48 Tamiya P-51B Mustang


The North American P-51B Mustang

The North American P-51 Mustang is one of the great success stories of World War II, not only for its stellar combat record, but for its winning design, and its origins, which are a testament to American scrappiness.

The P-51 was conceived when the RAF wanted more P-40s than Curtiss could manufacture. When they approached North American Aviation about building additional P-40s on license, NAA instead offered an entirely new aircraft design utilizing the latest aviation advances, the main one being the laminar flow wing, which significantly reduced drag. The Mustang went from napkin sketch to prototype in a matter of months, but the final product was underwhelming due in large part to its Allison engine. It soldiered on as a competent strike aircraft, but didn’t really have the chops to go toe-to-toe with the Luftwaffe.

Then somebody had the idea of shoving a Merlin engine into the P-51. Where the result had yielded slight gains when the similar step was taken with the P-40, it transformed the Mustang into a war-winner. The P-51B and P-51C (identical, and only designated to denote where they were built) began equipping USAAF and RAF squadrons at the very end of 1943, and the rearmament swelled in the first few months of 1944. By summer, every fighter group in the 8th Air Force save for the 56th had converted over to the Mustang, and the iconic bubble-top P-51D was making its way into the field. But the -B continued to serve pretty much up to the end of the war.

The Tamiya Kit

Two years ago, in July 2010, I kicked off my return to modeling with Tamiya’s P-51B Mustang. It was the perfect choice. While perhaps not reaching the masterpiece level of Tamiya’s P-47 lineup, the -B outstrips the -D handily in terms of cockpit detail, and is an absolute pleasure to build, almost falling together in a way few other kits do.

When I was casting about for a simple build to refresh myself on, the -B seemed an obvious choice, especially since I’ve long wanted to build one in the markings of Henry Brown’s “The Hun Hunter ~ Texas”. Brown’s one of my favorite Mustang pilots, not only for the sake of his being a fellow Dallas boy, but for his exploits in the air, which on one mission included outmaneuvering and driving off six Bf 109s – without ammunition! His Mustang’s striking scheme of RAF Dark Green over bare metal only adds to my want-to-do-it-ness.

At the moment I’m waiting for several Ultracast bits. Once they arrive, it’s off to the races!

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